Three topics stormed the audience at the ACTE Global 2011 conference which just ended in Paris this week: social, mobile and data.
Not a single session, nor keynote, ended without mentioning these topics several times.
Itinerary management apps, in particular, have been closely scrutinized as they become increasingly popular among business travellers.
For many travel managers, this category of apps seems to be a completely new discovery, but the initial AH-HA moment has quickly been following by questions and concerns.
- Travellers love these apps. And this is a huge plus for travel managers, who are spending their time advocating travel policies and corporate booking tools with often cold reaction from the larger employee base. A new technology that travellers are all happy about? Somewhere, there’s a lesson to learn.
- Less paper, less outdated information. All trip details synchronized and stored in the phone during travel, even when roaming without a data connection. Less emails and calls back and forth with travel arrangers/travel consultants. Time savings.
- Opportunity to capture expenses and trip data, even when booked outside of the travel program. This was seen as a big plus for some managers as a way to know where travellers actually are at all times in case of disruption.
- Opportunity to save money with fare drop alerts was not perceived as strong by large corporates, who have extensive fare tracking tools in place, however it can mean a lot for small businesses.
- Sharing trip details with colleagues. Useful to find colleagues on the same flights/hotels for networking, sharing taxi fees, and sharing destination tips.
- Huge concern with sharing confidential information to the outside world. With the ability for users to automatically share their trip details onto Facebook and LinkedIn, competitors, headhunters or investors can gain access to insightful data about company and employees activity. Big red flag for many, with potentially far reaching consequences such as serious breach of employment contract and immediate firing.
- Concerns with sharing confidential travel program data. It was realized that by forwarding booking confirmation emails to a third party, employees are revealing tons of data: preferred suppliers, TMC information, negotiated rates, maybe even other employees personal names,Â e-mails and job titles, reasons for travel, customer details and more. One travel manager was particularly shocked to imagine that Concur could theoretically access incredibly precious intelligence about any corporate account whose employees use TripIt.
- Worries with policy adherence. For some travel managers, the ability to book travel outside of the corporate program through the in-app suggestions (hotels, rental cars) was an issue for program compliance and employee tracking reasons.
Moves from the technology providers
Some travel managers wondered why the corporate booking tool providers are not offering such mobile apps if they are so valuable to travellers.
In fact, they are. But there seems to be a wide gap in user experience and functionality with the leading players.
- GetThere has mentioned to be working more closely with TripCase (both Sabre-owned).
- Concur/Cliqbook is obviously working with TripIt, especially stepping into the long tail unmanaged travel market.
- Amadeus’ e-Travel Management suite has mobile companion apps, integrated with the booking engine and hence including European rail and non-GDS low cost carriers.
- Busines travel agency Egencia has developed its own itinerary management app, as opposed to use third parties, to ensure complete policy control to travel managers.
- Many TMCs such as Amex use customized versions of WorldMate, integrating company policies and security requirements.
But what’s next?
It is actually quite difficult to determine, but there is a lot of buzz and excitement about mobile itinerary management.
The big news, for once, is this time it’s about something useful for the traveller, rather than the usual constant battle with reducing expenses.